7-Eleven Japan’s banana milk sparks controversy over deceptive packaging
Written by tokyoclub on January 12, 2021
Customers feel duped by “camouflage packaging”.
With so many businesses struggling during the pandemic, Japanese convenience stores have recently been ramping up collaborations with local companies to create exclusive new products for customers.
7-Eleven has been particularly active, joining forces with sweets giant Tokyo Banana for an exclusive range of mini Pokémon cakes. Prior to that, they caused a stir by collaborating with Sonna Banana, a Tokyo-based banana milk chain known for using nothing but milk and bananas in their fresh beverages.
▼ The drinks, which rely solely on the fruit for sweetness, are so fresh they’re said to have a best-by date of 20 minutes.
— sonna banana バナナジュース専門店 (@sonnabanana877) March 21, 2020
Banana milk drinks are steadily gaining a cult-like following in Tokyo, with many now favouring them instead of bubble teas. So it was a happy day for both 7-Eleven and Sonna Banana when they released a Banana Milk with a longer shelf life to allow more people to get in on the trend.
— セブン‐イレブン・ジャパン (@711SEJ) June 23, 2020
▼ Sold exclusively at 7-Eleven stores, the drink immediately created a buzz on social media.
— セブンイレブン黒石野際店 (@711nogiwa) June 22, 2020
However, customers who purchased the drink began to discover something unusual about the new beverage. While it looked like they were getting their money’s worth with a generous serving of banana milk, it turns out that the cup, which appeared to be filled to the brim, actually wasn’t.
▼ This viral tweet from December alerted everyone to the news.
— ⛩🎍とわみん@HSPの自己肯定感↑🎍⛩ (@towamin) December 28, 2020
While the colour of the cup looks uniform on the shelf, it’s only until after you’ve consumed the drink that the true nature of the package design is revealed.
— ただのお米@フラット (@kogamaruu) December 31, 2020
Only the top portion of the cup is caramel-coloured, matching the colour of the liquid inside, while the rest of the cup is clear. Conveniently, the coloured part of the cup covers the gap between the surface of the liquid and the lid, making it look like the cup contains more liquid than it does.
▼ Twitter users proved their cups weren’t full by turning them upside down before opening them.
— ぶっタク@Husqvarna VITPILEN401 (@takuya_zoom) December 28, 2020
▼ Roughly a third of the cup is empty.
— 緑一新 (@GreenShin) December 29, 2020
▼ The original Sonna Banana juice, however, is clearly filled all the way to the rim.
＼🛵 #Ubereats やってます♻️／配達員到着ギリギリでお作りしてます！
— sonna banana バナナジュース専門店 (@sonnabanana877) February 23, 2020
While 7-Eleven has remained quiet on the issue, people on Twitter were quick to voice their concerns.
“There are many 7-Eleven drink packages like this. Sometimes they hide the top with a picture of fruit.”
“It’s camouflage packaging, concealing what’s inside.”
“Convenience stores continually pull stunts like this on customers.”
“This is blatantly deceptive. Someone should bring it up with the Consumer Affairs Agency.”
Some commenters recalled other instances of 7-Eleven products fooling the eye by appearing larger than they really are. In September last year, customers noticed some of the chain’s ready-to-eat meals were a lot shallower than the boxes they were served in.
セブンイレブンが一番こんなことするんですよ(´ཀ` ) pic.twitter.com/YNew62DTDO
— うるさくないトリ (@eZp4D7Oc579WFNR) October 12, 2020
▼ And in October, the chain came under fire for their controversial “Paper Tiger” sandwich, which was filled with empty promises.
— kou（17） (@kou17) October 12, 2020
In the case of the “Paper Tiger” sandwich, 7-Eleven claimed there was an error in the cutting process, but there seems to be no mistake with the new banana milks and the cups they come in. And while a lot of companies have been known to downsize products to absorb costs and avoid price increases for customers, that argument doesn’t appear to hold up for the banana milk, due to it being a brand new product.
With 7-Eleven continually raising eyebrows with their dubious packaging, the convenience store will now need to be more transparent–both literally and figuratively–with what they’re offering customers in future to avoid losing business to Lawson and Family Mart, their two biggest competitors.